Amy Leona Havin


LitWatch: A new reading and writing year begins

January comes full of author readings and workshops to help hone the writing craft and fulfill literary resolutions

The following quote from Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life is my advice to you in this new year. With 2020 but a memory now, it seems only fitting to be mindful in the present—finding gratitude for all that flows from our ‘wells’ and following our joie de vivre with open arms, wherever it may lead.

One of the things I know about writing is this:
 spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, 
every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a 
later place in the book or for another book; 
give it, give it all, give it now. 
The impulse to save something good for a better 
place later is the signal to spend it now. 
Something more will arise for later, something better. 
These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water.” 

It is in this spirit, amid the New Year’s resolutions and excitement of creative projects to come, that the Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling presents its online workshop, The Writer’s Notebook: A Blueprint for the Day. A two-day, 11-hour-long creative workshop hosted by Street Books founder and Lewis & Clark MFA professor Laura Moulton, this course invites participants to consider the choices made when it comes to how we spend our time.

Laura Moulton will lead a workshop centered on the writer’s notebook/image courtesy of Lewis & Clark College

Utilizing journaling and notebooks as writing tools to generate new literary work, Moulton intends to create an atmosphere that invites reflection and release of old ideas. By creating “sturdy refuges inside the notebook(s),” workshop attendees will be faced with the opportunity to expel that which no longer serves a purpose for their year ahead. This workshop will take place over two separate days, once on January 23 and again on February 13, 2021, from 9 am to 2:30 pm via Zoom. 

A particularly poignant Annie Dillard quote from within the workshop’s course description reads, “How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives.” This sentiment, I have discovered, is one of the most genuine lessons that I can take with me from last year’s series of difficult events, as they unfolded seemingly one after another. Whether we as artists and as individuals have faced times of trying hardship or times of metamorphic delight over the past 12 months, it is with great optimism that I implore us all to breathe a sigh of relief and reach to our writing utensils, for a gleaming new year has arrived.

Week 1: January 1-7

You Are A Writer: A Career & Craft Workshop Series
Presented by PEN America
Wednesdays, Jan. 6-27
5-7 pm
Hosted Virtually
Free Event

PEN America presents a series of online workshops about the business of writing inspired by the Lost Angeles-based Emerging Voices Fellowship, which provides tools to marginalized writers within the LGBTQIA+ communities as well as people of color, women, and immigrants. In this workshop, participants will receive an introduction to four of the major topics important to launching a career as a writer.

Livestream Reading: Jason Tanamor with Grace Talusan
Presented by Annie Bloom’s Books
Thursday, Jan. 7
7 pm via ZOOM

Jason Tanamor, the critically acclaimed author of Anonymous and Drama Dolls, joins Grace Talusan, author of The Body Papers, in conversation about his new novel Vampires of Portlandia. This urban fantasy about Filipino folklore, known as aswang, is aimed to excite young adults and adult readers alike.

Week 2: January 8-14

Livestream Event: Let’s Dish with Carly Knowles MS, RDN, LD
Presented by Annie Bloom’s Books
Monday, Jan. 11
7 pm via ZOOM

After living in a rural village in Peru, Carly Knowles realized that food truly is the best form of holistic medicine. After setting her path to becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, she earned a Master of Science in nutrition from Bastyr University and began working as a dietitian in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Join West Linn Public Library as Knowles discusses her new book, The Nutritionist’s Kitchen: Transform Your Diet and Discover the Healing Power of Whole Foods, a science-based guide to support optimal health and wellness through everyday meals, with The Oregonian food writer Grant Butler.

Livestream Reading: Lori Tobias with Laura Stanfill
Presented by Annie Bloom’s Books
Thursday, Jan. 14
7 pm via ZOOM

Lori Tobias will read from her new book, “Storm Beat: A Journalist Reports from the Oregon Coast.”

Annie Bloom’s Books presents Oregon author, journalist and Oregon ArtsWatch contributor Lori Tobias for a reading from her new book, Storm Beat: A Journalist Reports from the Oregon Coast. This book draws on Tobias’s long career as the Oregon Coast staff writer for The Oregonian as she witnesses the “rugged, beautiful place known for its dramatic landscapes and fierce storms.” Examining the decline of journalism in the modern age, the learning curve of living life on the coast, and the newsworthy incidents that dot her prolific journalistic career, Tobias tells a compelling story of “a land that many visit but few truly know.” Tobias will be in conversation with Portland publisher and writer of Sad House: Parenting, Grief, and Creativity in the Coronavirus Crisis, Laura Stanfill.

Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic Featuring Christopher Gonzalez
Hosted by Christopher Lunda, Toni Lumbrazo Luna, and Morgan Paige
Thursday, Jan. 14
7 pm via ZOOM
$5 suggested donation

Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic is a self-proclaimed LGBTQ+ friendly, pro-science, anti-fascist, all-ages, uncensored reading. This month’s reading features Christopher Gonzales, an educator, journalist, playwright, poet, musician, and creative-collaborator based in Portland, Oregon. Gonzales has performed alongside International Slam Champions Saul Williams and Shane Koyczan, and his first book, water or bread, was published by Human Error Press in 2017. Email no later than 3 pm on January 10 to indicate your interest in sharing one poem of three minutes or less during the open mic reading. In the subject line, write “reading” or “just listening,” and you will receive instructions for how to join the meeting.

Week 3: January 15-21

Livestream Reading: Jack Estes
Presented by Annie Bloom’s Books
Tuesday, Jan. 19
7 pm

Annie Bloom’s presents a livestream reading of Searching for Gurney with Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and essayist Jack Estes. Estes’s essays have been featured in The LA Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Chicago Tribune, and his new novel has been praised by author Tim O’Brien as being “tender, convincing, sometimes harrowing, and wonderfully written.” Exploring the lives of two United States Marines and one North Vietnamese soldier during the late 1960s, Searching for Gurney is promised to be a heartfelt tale of trauma and courage.

Week 4: January 21-31

The Writer’s Notebook: A Blueprint for the Day
Presented by the Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling
Saturdays, Jan. 23 and Feb. 13
9 am-2:30 pm
Hosted Virtually
$150 general, $40 student

Hosted by Street Books founder and Lewis & Clark MFA professor Laura Moulton, this workshop utilizes journaling and notebooks as writing tools to generate new literary work while inviting participants to consider the choices made when it comes to how we spend our time. Presented by the Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling, this course will take place over two days and is open to students, alumni, and the general public.

Two Rivers Virtual Book Club
Presented by Two Rivers Bookstore
Tuesday, Jan. 26
6:30-8 pm
Hosted Virtually
Free Event

Two Rivers Virtual Book Club presents a special end of the year event. This month, the book club is BYOB, meaning Bring Your Own Book, where participants are encouraged to bring along their favorite book of the year. Each person in attendance will get the chance to speak about their choice and are even invited to bring a book they disliked about which they can openly share their grievances. Books of all genres and lengths are welcome.

Livestream Reading: Waka T. Brown with Rebecca Petruck
Presented by Annie Bloom’s Books
Tuesday, Jan. 26
7 pm via ZOOM

Join author Waka T. Brown as she talks about her debut memoir, While I Was Away, with the writer of Boy Bites Bug, Rebecca Petruck. In While I Was Away, a young Brown must come to terms with the reality of culture shock as she is sent from middle America to live with her strict family in Tokyo, Japan. Her home life and school life turned upside down, Brown explores the meaning of ‘home’ and how to find it.

The Heartfelt & Heartbroken: Writing Evocative Love Poems
Presented by Caesura Poetry Workshop
Friday, Jan. 29
1:30-4 pm via ZOOM

This workshop is perfect for those of you already pining for Saint Valentine’s Day by mid- to late January. In The Heartfelt & The Heartbroken: Writing Evocative Love Poems, you will be led in a generative exploration of the many facets of writing poems of love. After analyzing poems from other contemporary poets and participating in hand-on writing activities, the attendees will discover unique ways to share their emotions of affection through poetry, without getting stuck in the sentimentality of their feelings.

Submit your literary events, workshops, and readings to the calendar. Send your event information and press materials to Amy Leona Havin at

Interview: Jennifer Robin on politics, mothers, and mortality

In a time of political unrest, Portland-based author and local literary visionary Jennifer Robin gets candid about her past works, what keeps her writing, and the current state of our society

As one of Portland’s most prolific writers, Jennifer Robin has presented work across a myriad of platforms since the age of 18. Robin is an unapologetically authentic literary voice. Her long and eccentric history includes reading alongside electronic musicians Spirit Duplicator and The Dead Air Fresheners, and a 10-year career as the booker and host of a live experimental music and text radio show on Portland’s KBOO radio.

Robin’s most recent published books, Death Confetti: Pickers, Punks, and Transit Ghosts in Portland, Oregon (Feral House, 2016) and Earthquakes in Candyland (Fungasm Press, 2019) are down-to-earth, intimate, and surreal examinations of the individuals who make up the complex stew that is our society, in turn initiating a whole new group of adoring fans into Robin’s already devoted assembly.

Jennifer Robin’s down-to-earth, intimate, and surreal writing examines the here and now. Photo: Kenneth Barton

I met Jennifer Robin roughly six years ago through a monthly independent reading series that took place in various cafes and minuscule bars across the Southeast Portland area. The first time I heard her read—or rather, saw her perform—her work, I nearly fell off my bar stool. “This is what he did!” she sang into the microphone, her ultra-thick eyeliner, pointedly swaying body language, and commanding tone sending the room into a trance. Within seconds, I was hooked. Hooked on her words and on her candid storytelling; on the beauty she created from the mundane and the grotesque, enough so that I found myself in an online search after the show that eventually resulted in Jennifer Robin’s Facebook page.

While continuing to dazzle audiences on her Youtube channel and newly found Medium platform, Robin seems to have had most interaction with her readers through her Facebook page, where for years she posted captivating character vignettes, larger-than-life tales of her mother, and political stances, all of which broke the usual trend of humdrum Facebook content. Posting stories, book snippets, and even late-night musings into the sex-lives of her neighbors, Robin has been a wealth of contemporary, and sometimes controversial, literary material—sparking discussions, epiphanies, and arguments among her followers.


LitWatch Monthly: A Bright and Merry December

The December literary scene is shining bright this holiday season with workshops, intensives, open mics, and more

December. Frost cracking
Beneath my steps, my breath
Before me, then gone,
As I walked toward
Her house, the one whose
Porchlight burned yellow
Night and day, in any weather.

December is now upon us and with the coming winter my thoughts turn to the poem above titled Oranges. Written by Mexican-American poet and young adult author Gary Soto, Oranges is a gentle and sincere story of a young boy who walks to the home of a girl he admires on a cold and bittersweet December day. The imagery of the poem is crisp and frosted, broken only by the warmth and color of the illuminated porchlight and the oranges he describes carrying in each pocket.

In the Portland literary arts world, the ability for online platform hosting has proven to be our beacon of light on a cold day.  Though many workshops, readings, and festivals throughout this year have been canceled or postponed due to Covid-19 protocols, it feels as though just as many have figured out a new way to survive the uncertainty, burning brightly in the face of any obstacles that greet them.

Ongoing events are finding a steady and stable home online for the coming winter season and many are drawing virtual audiences by offering suggested donation tickets or free events. Readings and meet-ups that are choosing to stay in-person are abiding by rigorous sanitation rules, mandatory mask-wearing, and social distancing guidelines. Though the fears of covid-19 are ever-present, I can’t help but sigh with relief at the hopeful glimmer that is the perseverance of Oregon’s rich and immersive literary scene.

One event in particular that seeks to liven up the winter season is Slamlandia: December on Thursday, December 17 at 7 pm, where poets are encouraged to read their work, participate in community, and witness others in a safe and welcoming space. Presented in partnership with Literary Arts and often hosted by Slammaster Julia Gaskill, Slamlandia’s mission is to provide “an open mic and poetry slam that is creative, fun, and welcoming to all literary communities in Portland”. Whether you have a few new pages you’d like to try out on an eager audience, or are in the mood to hear a line-up of spirited poems, this free virtual event is bound to spice up your Thursday night.

And with that, I wish you all a merry December full of poetry, lectures, workshops, inspiring conversations, and page-turners you won’t want to put down. May you find your own ‘porch light burning bright’ in the cold of the coming winter. Until next year, Oregonians!

Week 1: December 1-7

A Virtual Conversation with Ernest Cline
Presented by Powell’s City of Books
Monday, December 7
5 pm via ZOOM
$28.99 includes event ticket and book

Powell’s City of Books presents Ernest Cline in a virtual conversation about his newest book, Ready Player Two. Cline is a #1 New York Times bestselling author with published work in over 50 countries, and his Ready Player Two is the highly anticipated sequel to his celebrated Ready Player One, which inspired the popular 2018 Steven Spielberg film. Along with entry to the live conversation, attendees who purchase a ticket/book will be able to submit their author questions to for a chance to be answered during the event.

An Appointment with Emily and Your Chair: Free Writing Session
Presented by Literary Arts
Monday, December 7
7-8 pm via ZOOM
Free Event

Make an appointment with Oregon Book Award finalist Emily Chenoweth and join a group of fellow writers for an evening of prompts “designed to help writers learn about characters they’ve already imagined and flesh out stories they’re in the midst of writing.” Writers of all genres are welcome and though it is suggested, having a pre-prepared character and story are not required. Meant to inspire by means of blocking out time, this free writing session includes a 45-minute silent writing spree with mics and cameras turned off followed by a short verbal video check-in.

Emily Chenoweth leads a free writing session.

Week 2: December 8-14

Book Pub Second Sundays with Lark & Raven and Friends
Presented by Rose City Book Pub
Sunday, December 13
4-6 pm
1329 NE Fremont Street, Portland, OR

For a family-friendly event featuring music, theatre, and book, head over to Book Pub Second Sundays presented by Rose City Book Pub. This month’s exciting line up features International Folk, Americana, and Afro-Cuban artist Lark & Raven, captivating Celtic singer Riona, and a group of “delightful queer, trans, and disabled people with a genre-blurring theatrical folk pop sound” called Sasha & The Children and promises to make for an enjoyable evening out.

Week 3: December 15-21

WITS Writer Winter Reading
Presented by Literary Arts
Thursday, December 17
5:30-7 pm via ZOOM

Literary Arts invites you to “listen to literary excellence” from the comfort of your own home as they celebrate this year’s Writers in the Schools program, which aims to inspire students by hosting working writers in high school classrooms. This year’s WITS event features writers Brian Benson, CJ Wiggan, Dey Rivers, Matt Smith, Meg E. Griffitts, Valarie Pearce, and more.

Slamlandia: December
Presented by Literary Arts
Thursday, December 17
7 pm

If attending a poetry slam is your favorite way to ring in the holiday season, look no further. Slamlandia returns for its December edition, offering a lively open mic where poets are encouraged to read their work, participate in community, and witness others in a safe and welcoming space.

Friday Night Writes
Presented by Wordcrafters In Eugene
Friday, December 18
6-9 pm via ZOOM
$5 members, $10 non-members

Wordcrafters In Eugene presents a recurring Friday night online group for writers. This fun and productive session is open to writers of all genres and offers a 45 minute writing time block followed by 15 minutes of chatting, repeated throughout the evening. With plenty of word games and writing prompts, Friday Night Writes is sure to help you get plenty of writing done on your Friday night in.

Women Who Submit PDX
Sunday, December 20
4-6 pm
Free Virtual Event, RSVP to

Host Emma Pattee has one big goal in mind — to get more women authors published. Women Who Submit is hosting a submission soiree for women and non-binary writers in order to empower them through encouragement and community. Along with the friendly faces, you’ll find snacks, a small library of literary journals, and even champagne for toasting completed submission.

Week 4: December 22-31

The Work Poetry Workshop with Christopher Luna
Presented by Printed Matte Vancouver and Angst Gallery
Monday, December 28
6-8:30 pm via ZOOM
$20 suggested donation

Need some post-Christmas inspiration? The Work is a monthly drop-in poetry workshop for writers of all levels. Encouraging empathy and compassion, this workshop seeks to inspire writers in “sparking the shifts in consciousness which can lead to healing, personal growth, and an interest in fighting for progressive social change.” The Work is hosted by Christopher Luna in association with Niche Wine Bar and Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic, and recommends bringing a pre-written poem to share with the group.

LitWatch Monthly: Virtually November

National Novel Writing Month, the Portland Book Festival, and a brand new Lit Crawl make November a flourishing time for Portland’s (online) literary scene

With the transition of Portland’s literary events from lively in-person readings to responsibly distanced online platforms, one might expect a lull of silence from the community. Luckily, National Novel Writing Month, the Portland Book Festival, and Literally Crawling are upon us, making this November’s lit scene anything but silent.

Each year, the changing leaves mark the start of November’s National Novel Writing Month. A big event among book writers from memoirists to sci-fi authors, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is a virtual platform which encourages writers across the globe to participate in an intensive month-long novel writing process. With over a million users, the NaNoWriMo platform guides both novice and experienced book writers in generating 50,000 words over the course of 30 days, offering badges and rewards in exchange for consistent word count tracking and community participation.

Similar to a social media account, allows writers to connect with ‘buddies’ in their location, has chat rooms and groups available for writer’s block support, and offers a myriad of resources including pep talks from well-known authors, virtual write-in meet ups, and a calendar of writing workshops. Though National Novel Writing Month technically begins on the 1st of November, the NaNoWriMo platform is available year-round so don’t worry about joining in late!


The Portland Dance Film Fest and the inevitable future of dance on film

The Portland Dance Film fest moves online to feature filmmakers from across the globe and encourage positive change

“Getting people in their bodies is a really healthy force for beneficial change,” said Jess Evans over a Zoom call one cloudy afternoon. We were talking about the challenges and triumphs that faced the organizers of the Portland Dance Film Fest during the days of Coronavirus, alongside co-organizers Kailee McMurran and Tia Palomino.

“We learn about ourselves by watching other people,” continued Evans. “There’s a lot of power in what we consume, so offering [films] that sit people into their bodies and makes them more empathetic, hopefully, can allow them to feel more connected [to each other].” 

A still from About Face, directed by Yoram Savion.

The Portland Dance Film Fest, developed in 2016 to showcase both local and international dance filmmaking, has become a staple on the yearly arts calendars of many Pacific Northwest-based dance filmmakers, choreographers, and audience members alike. Featuring expert panels, workshops, documentaries, an annual film commission, and three evenings of dance films hand-picked by a panel of judges, the PDFF this year, which ran October 2-4, faced its most difficult and rewarding year.